Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quiet Day

The Bucs have one more day to go in Florida; let's hope it goes a little better than today, as the Pirates lost to the Detroit Tigers, 8-5.

Zach Duke, the opening day pitcher, gave up all the runs, and in the usual Zachster fashion. A couple of soft hits, a couple of balls Garrett Jones didn't quite track down, a missed throw by Jeff Clement...hey, no Pirate pitcher, and particularly Duke, is gonna have much luck without some fielding behind him.

The attack was OK again, led by Lastings Milledge, Aki Iwamura and Andy LaRoche, who each had two hits.

Daniel McCutchen will get the start against the Phillies in Clearwater tomorrow, then the two teams move on to the City of Brotherly Love, where they'll play exhibitions Friday and Saturday at Citizen's Bank Park.

Monday, it's for real, as the Dodgers open the season at PNC. It's supposed to be 68 and sunny; we hope the team is as ready as the Pittsburgh weather.

No news today other than Eric Kratz was sent to minor league camp; it was a no-brainer to keep Jason Jaramillo as Doumit's backup. Kratz is a nice insurance policy, but the Bucs need someone to caddy for Doumit; they have to give him at least a day off per week. JJ has been there and done that.

As for the rest of the team...well, we'll know by Sunday. There are still some possible twists and turns, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bucs Lose Game and Some Players

OK, today's game doesn't mean squat. The Twins threw their A team against a pack of Pirate rub-a-dubs, and predictably enough won 4-1.

The important part was Charlie Morton did OK pitching. Morton allowed one run on five hits in six innings of work, walking one and striking out three. He looks ready to get the season goin', as do Paul Maholm and Zach Duke. Daniel McCutchen has been passable, and Ross Ohlendorf...well, Ohlie needs a little work.

The big news is the herd of right-handers the Bucs shipped back to Indy: Jeff Karstens, Vinnie Chulk, Brian Bass, Steven Jackson, Jeremy Powell and Anthony Claggett all went, along with catcher Luke Carlin.

That takes the roster down to 30, with Jose Ascanio almost surely getting placed on the 60-day DL and Joel Hanrahan on the 15-day. So three cuts to go.

And no, we're not guessing. They could carry an extra bat for a couple or three weeks and go with four starters. They have to do some rearranging of the 40-man roster. They have guys with options that are probably better than the guys without options, but that and $5 will get you a small latte. They have, for goodness sake, Hayden Penn. They are looking to dump at least Ramon Vazquez, and who knows who may pop up on the waiver wire that they've drooled over?

What is sure? Jack Taschner and D.J. Carrasco are in so far - and both need to bump someone of the 40-man roster. Hayden Penn, maybe. The rotation is Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, and Charlie Morton through April; who knows what they plan for Daniel McCutchen, Kevin Hart, Brad Lincoln, and Penn? GW doesn't think the suits know themselves.

Bobby Crosby, Delwyn Young, Ryan Church, all in. Eric Kratz, doubtful - if they burn Jason Jaramillo's option to get him a couple hundred more at bats in AAA, they are not setting up the future very well.

That leaves Ramon Vazquez, Steve Pearce, and John Raynor in play for one or two bench spots. Don't count out Pearce; they need a RH off the bench, especially one that can come in as a defensive first baseman beside turning the order around. But there's where that option comes in...he has one; Raynor doesn't. (And yah, it's possible that Clement could go down, but very unlikely).

So hey, it's getting close to opening day. But all the drama is at the back end of the roster. Your 2010 starting lineup will be:

Aki Uwamura, 2B
Andrew McCutchen, CF
Garrett Jones, RF
Ryan Doumit, C
Lastings Milledge, LF
Jeff Clement, 1B
Andy LaRoche, 3B
Your Starting Pitcher
Ronny Cedeno, SS

Milledge and Clement could switch, but it is better balanced with Milledge hitting fifth if he can produce. And so the starting lineup going into camp will be the starting lineup leaving camp. We'll soon see if that's a good or bad thing.

-- Here's what Matt Pouliot of Rotoworld thinks will be the final roster for the Bucs and the NL.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bucs Fool With Lineup And Roster

OK, when you win 13-1, it is for sure the sight-challenged pig finding an acorn.

The pitching was sweet. Paul Maholm went five innings, and gave up six hits and a run while walking three and striking out four. The lefty got eleven of his fifteen outs via the K or grounder, and that's a good sign for April.

The four Pirate hurlers after him - Octavio Dotel, Jack Taschner, Evan Meek, and Javier Lopez - all went an inning with no hits and a strikeout.

The hitting, wind aided though it may have been, was cracklin', too. Aki Iwamura, Andrew McCutchen, Andy LaRoche, and Garrett Jones all homered; McCutch also tripled, while Ryan Doumit had a pair of doubles and Jeff Clement had one. The Bucs had fifteen hits and the Astros committed four errors.

The Pirates needed a game like this; they had been a deep, dark, two-week funk. Let's hope the last week of spring becomes a springboard and not an anchor.

-- In his final start of the spring, Charlie Morton will face Francisco Liriano of the Twins tomorrow. Javier Lopez and Vinnie Chulk are scheduled to follow.

-- JR said he's gonna go with the pitcher batting eighth. He gave all the stock reasons; we'll see if it lasts any longer than the other times he's used it.

-- The Bucs claimed 25 year-old righty Hayden Penn off waivers from Florida, and DFA'd Brandon Moss, who was hitting .083, to create room on the 40-man roster for him. John Raynor has one less competitor to sweat over this week.

Penn looks to GW like a Kevin Hart clone; big guy, lots of nasty stuff, needs a GPS app to find home plate. Penn pitched 13 Grapefruit League innings for the Marlins this spring, and gave up 12 earned runs.

His MLB career consists of 80 innings. His record is 4-6, with an ERA of 8.89, and he's given up 114 hits (17 left the yard) in those 80 frames. He's walked 54 and K'd 53 during that span, about 6 batters each per nine innings.

Though the Fish used him as a long guy last year, he's mainly a starter. And need we mention that he's out of options? Seems like a boot in the butt to Vinnie Chulk, but hey, we'll see what the suits have in mind.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bucs Bombed Again

World to Ohlie: The season's right around the corner, dude! Ross Ohlendorf was taken to the woodshed by the Tampa Bay Rays today, as he gave up eight runs on ten hits - two of which went yard - and three walks with zero K's in four innings.

He ran into the same problems he's exhibited all spring. His command has been off, and he's working behind in counts. Not much time left to get aggressive again, like Ohlie was at the end of last season.

Matt Garza, meanwhile, was holding the Bucs to a run on four hits over seven frames, striking out seven and walking one.

Jeff Clement homered and Garrett Jones tripled; that would be a nice pair of bats to get warmed up heading into April.

The Bucs eventually went down by an 8-2 score, and at 6-16-1, they have the worst record in the Grapefruit League. Some spring, hey?

-- The Pirate-Phils split-squad game at Clearwater was canceled due to rain, but since DJ Carrasco was supposed to open the game, no starters were bumped off schedule.

-- The Pirates will play their final home game of the spring tomorrow when they take on the Astros. Paul Maholm will start with a pitch count of 90; no word on who's to follow yet.

-- Ronald Bellisario, the relief pitcher who the Pirates dumped and then went on to record a 2.04 ERA in 69 appearances as a Dodger rookie last year, has been placed on the restricted list by LA; he just reported to camp today.

He said he had visa problems, which is common enough, but then never showed up for scheduled appointments with the embassy to square away his situation. As a result, he can now be held off the roster for 30 days - without pay - for missing his start date by a few weeks, according to Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles.

So maybe the Buc suits' mysterious low-ball evaluation had more to do with what Bellisario showed above the shoulders rather than below.

-- Surprise: the British-based journal Sporting Intelligence did its annual rating of the best paid teams in world sports, and the Yankees were number 1. The next three squads were soccer teams, followed by NBA fives.

The Bronx Bombers average about $7M per man; the runner-up Madrid soccer team made $6.3M.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

McCutch Takes His Lumps

Daniel McCutchen won the last man standing struggle for the fifth spot, and was rewarded with his first Grapefruit League start, after the fact. He lasted just four innings, allowing five hits and five runs. He struck out four and walked one.

He made two big mistakes; one was a blast by Jose Bautista, and the other was letting the ball get in play; Ronny Cedeno made back-to-back errors that led to three unearned runs that scored on one hit. The Bucs booted four balls in all today in the 11-2 loss to Toronto.

Not that it much mattered; the Pirates had just five hits, two by Andrew McCutchen. They're now 6-15-1 in Grapefruit League play, not a very good omen for the regular season.

-- The team has split squads playing tomorrow. Going to Clearwater to face the Phillies will be D.J. Carrasco (3 innings/50 pitches) Brian Bass, Anthony Claggett, and Steve Jackson with Javier Lopez, Evan Meek, Jeremy Powell, and Jack Taschner available.

Visiting Port Charlotte to tackle the Rays are Ross Ohlendorf (six innings/90 pitches)followed by Octavio Dotel with Brendan Donnelly, Vinnie Chulk, and Jeff Karstens to follow.

And yes, the relievers are going in back-to-back games now.

-- Lots and lots of Bucco baseball on the tube this year; FSN has announced it will air 156 of the 162 games.

-- The Pirates have 37 guys on the roster; Joel Hanrahan and Jose Ascanio will start on the DL, making the magic number 35. The team has until 3 PM of April 4th to set their roster at 25 players, although some cuts could come as soon as Monday. A couple, though, could go to the wire as they try to work deals and decide what to do with guys with and without options.

-- Any possible deals don't look as if they involve the rotation. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, in a piece discussing Arizona's quest for pitching, says flat-out that "Pirates’ lefties Zach Duke and Paul Maholm are not available."

Then again, the suits just may be holding out for a better price in what looks like a seller's market.

-- Speaking of pitchers, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Tom Gorzelanny won a rotation spot in Chi-town, over Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija. So Gorzo and John Grabow are on Chicago's roster; the Pittsburgh end of the deal has Kevin Hart in AAA, Jose Ascanio on the DL, and Josh Harrison in the mid-level minors. Great deal so far.

-- Bob Dutton of the Royals Report tweets that C Steven Lerud, DFA'd by Pittsburgh and claimed by KC last season, was traded to the O's for a player to be named later.

-- The Associated Press reports that 35 year-old Dirt Dog Doug Mientkiewicz is getting cut by the Dodgers and is mulling his MLB options

Yawn...Another Loss

Zach Duke looked ready for the season. He went 6-2/3 innings, and his numbers were one walk, two strikeouts, two singles, and no runs, a very sweet start.

He left with a 2-0 lead; it wouldn't hold up. The Pirates lost to the 'Stros on a ninth-inning walk-off homer 6-4 with their rinky-dinks in the field.

Josh Harrison, Robby Grossman, Shelby Ford, and Benji Gonzalez were playing during the Pirate meltdown. Hey we understand you gotta look at these guys, and that there are still some split-squad games that require live bodies. But with nine days to go, don't you think you could start giving the major league players those closing innings?

-- Daniel McCutchen will pitch today against Toronto, followed by Brendan Donnelly, Evan Meek, Steven Jackson and Jeff Karstens.

-- Guys working on spots: Jeff Clement went 2-for-3 and scored twice; John Raynor wore the collar and is 2-for-20 in his past few outings, letting Brandon Moss back in the race.

The Bucs, according to Jen Langosch of, are still pondering a six-man bench instead of a twelve man pitching staff when they break camp.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bucs Glad To See Chavez Again

Charlie Morton gave up two home runs, five runs and eight hits in five innings, while striking out four and walking none in another lackluster performance by a Pirate starter.

But hey, don't worry. None of them are. After all, it's the spring. It doesn't count for another whole ten days.

To add insult to injury, the dingers were whacked by two 2009 Pirates, Nate McLouth and Eric Hinske, and was the first for both.

Still, the Bucs took a 7-6, 10-inning victory against the Atlanta Braves today at McKechnie Field, led by Steve Pearce, Delwyn Young, and a pretty good job by the pen.

After Morton, Evan Meek, Jeff Karstens, and Steve Jackson threw scoreless frames, while Brain Bass gave up a run in his two-inning stint. Pearce hit his third homer of the spring and drove in three runs, and Young added a pair of RBI. And today's prospects d'jour, Starling Marte and Chase d'Arnaud, both had singles.

It's not like the Pirates' starting lineup is doing any better of a job than the rotation. Atlanta's Kenshin Kawakami pitched six scoreless innings, limiting the Bucs to four hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

Oh yah, and Jesse Chavez. He more than made up for Nate the Great and Hinske's heroics when he gave up five runs in 1/3 of an inning, surrendering six singles (a Pirate rally!) and a walk.

-- Zach Duke will start against the Astros on Friday at Kissimmee. Duke will be allowed up to 85 pitches, with Jack Taschner and Jeff Karstens scheduled to follow.

-- A couple of minor injuries to report: Vinnie Chulk has been bothered by right bicep soreness, and is expected to be back this weekend to work a scrimmage. Ryan Church expects to return by the end of the weekend after missing time because of a fractured tip of his left middle finger.

-- There's a lot of noise concerning John Raynor and Brandon Moss. Hey, it's a battle for the fifth outfield spot, with future upside the only question. The suits have to figure out if Moss should be given more time to come around; at least until Tabata is ready. Pretty simple, actually.

-- More interesting is the Jeff Clement situation. It looks like he needs a little more work at first, and his sub-.200 batting average is a little shaky, too. The smart money says that Ryan Church is the RF if Clement goes to Indy and Garrett Jones to first (and it still does).

First, we wonder if this leaves room for Steve Pearce to make the team? Not likely, but he would allow the team another option to go right-handed. But he has an option left, and Moss and Raynor have none, and that's probably the key.

Also, if memory serves us, Delwyn Young has been in the outfield just a couple of times this spring. We think the Bucs are looking at his bat as a potential everyday weapon. But why limit him as Aki Iwamura's successor, when he probably wouldn't look too bad in right, either? Just sayin'...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

At Least They Don't Count...Yet

Paul Maholm gave up three home runs in the Pirates' 6-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox this afternoon at McKechnie Field. The lefty yielded five runs and five hits over five innings.

He struck out seven and walked none, featuring a sharp slider, so it's one of those glass half-full days. Maholm was nasty when he hit his spots; but it was nasty when he missed.

D.J. Carrasco allowed one run on two hits in an inning of relief in the second day of back-to-back bullpen outings, his first two-fer of the campaign. Javier Lopez still has a 0.00 ERA, and is back in the saddle after the birth of his little girl. Brendan Donnelly added a scoreless frame, with two K's and a hit surrendered.

Pirates closer Octavio Dotel made his first Grapefruit League appearance of the season and pitched a scoreless ninth, walking one, beaning a batter and chucking a wild pitch. Whatever Kevin Hart has, he caught today; twelve of his twenty-two pitches missed the mark.

Josh Beckett allowed one run in five innings and struck out nine, giving up three hits, two walks, and a run. The guys behind him worked four innings and whiffed seven more. The score was closer than it looks; Fernando Cabrera gave up three runs in the ninth.

In toto, the Pirates struck out sixteen times and collected seven hits. Third base prospect Jeremy Farrell homed in the ninth, as did Delwyn Young, who hit a two-run shot. Thank you, Fernando, for providing just a little drama.

Aki Iwamura had two hits on the day, including a double, and scored the Bucs first tally.

The Pirates are 5-13-1 in spring ball and have lost nine of their last eleven games. We know it's Bradenton and all, but geez, it looks a lot like the team that did just enough to lose all those games last year. Brrrrrr!

-- Pittsburgh plays host to the Atlanta Braves tomorrow at McKechnie Field. Charlie Morton is scheduled to go six innings or 90 pitches, with Brian Bass and Evan Meek slated to finish the parade.

-- The Rangers just dealt for good-glove infielder Gregorio Petit; that almost certainly takes them out of the Ramon Vazquez derby.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ohlie and Bucs Obliterated

Ross Ohlendorf had his shakiest outing of the spring, allowing seven runs (four earned) on nine hits and three walks in 3-2/3 innings of work as the Pirates' lost 11-1 to the Houston Astros B Team at McKechnie Field. He whiffed a pair, and made one of the Pirates' three early errors.

Anthony Claggett was dinged for a three spot in two innings, and Steve Jackson gave up a run. Jack Taschner and Jeremy Powell each threw a scoreless frame.

The Buc hitters didn't exactly put up a fight; they collected eight hits, but stranded nine runners. Jeff Clement had two hits and drove in a run. Andrew McCutchen had a tough day on the bases; he was caught stealing and picked off.

-- The Bucs host the Red Sox tomorrow. The Pirate pitchers are Paul Maholm, D.J. Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly, Octavio Dotel, and Javier Lopez.

-- The Pirates named Zach Duke their starter for the April 5th home and season opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Zachster was an All-Star last year, when he went 11-16 with a 4.06 ERA.

-- Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors thought that Garrett Jones was one of the top minor league signings of 2009; he also thinks that the inking of DJ Carrasco is one of this year's better deals.

-- Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse tweets that the Rangers are looking at Ramon Vazquez as a utility infielder.

-- Joe Beimel, ex-Bucco and Duquesne grad from St. Mary's, signed for another tour of duty with the Rox, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post.

One Decision Made

-- The Pirates made eight cuts today, and wayward pitcher Kevin Hart was one of them, neatly resolving one of the camp dramas.

Hart was shipped to Indy, along with RHP Chris Jakubauskas and UTIL Neil Walker. 1B Brian Myrow, C Hector Gimenez and pitchers Brian Burres, Wil Ledezma, and Jean Machi were sent to minor league camp for later assignment. The roster is beginning to take shape; there are now 37 players left for 25 spots.

We know the Bucs were hot to have Hart break camp with them, but we're not real sure where their confidence came from. He was a wild child in Chicago, walking 40 batters in 66-1/3 innings, or 5.4/game, and improved marginally here, issuing 26 free passes in 53-1/3 frames, or 4.4/game.

So congrats to Daniel McCutchen; we'll see how long he can hold off Brad Lincoln. Of course, he could be strong enough to allow the Bucs to deal one of their more veteran pitchers, too, from a staff of decent but not top-of-the-rotation arms.

-- The suits' newfound attention to performance, be it as it may, is probably not very good news for Brandon Moss, who is in a 1-for-23 funk while trying to hold off Rule 5 claim John Raynor. That's the next drama to be played out.

-- Speaking of dramas, Jeff Clement is looking more likely to break camp with the big team. Though batting just .143, he's only struck out five times in 28 at-bats and has been handling first base OK, which was a much greater concern than his bat.

-- With major-league ready middle infield prospects kinda slim in the Bucco system, GW guesses that the winner of the Ronny Cedeno-Bobby Crosby battle (and not just the camp battle, but the one that will waged throughout the 2010 season) gets a two-year deal; the loser walks.

GW also has noticed that the Pirates haven't given up on Delwyn Young at second base yet; the pricy Aki Iwamura has been erratic in regard to range so far in camp, which isn't too surprising considering that his knee is in a brace.

With a full season to work with instead of 2009's crash course, it seems like the Pirates are going to try to get Young's mitt game-ready; second has been where he's been getting the lion's share of his playing time. And it's a good idea; you're probably looking at a .290/15/75 second base line if he plays full time, maybe better.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not Exactly An Off Day

The Bucs' game against the Rays was rained out yesterday, bumping Daniel McCutchen from his first Grapefruit League start. No matter; he traveled to Clearwater today where the weather was a little more cooperative to face the Phil's AAA club.

The almost-ready-for-prime-time Phils were pretty well shut down by McCutch, who worked four scoreless innings, allowing three hits. He struck out two, walked one and threw 61 pitches. Big deal; we know what kind of AAA pitcher he is already.

His erstwhile competitor, Kevin Hart, stayed behind in Bradenton and threw against the Phils AA/High A squad. He went 3-1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits along with three strikeouts, four walks, and two wild pitches. He pitch count got to 74 pitches, 39 of them tossed for strikes.

Now his stuff was good; three of the hits never left the infield. But that command...well, he considered it a step forward; maybe it is. Then again, consider the opposition.

So nothing to indicate who is going to hold that last spot in the rotation. Despite McCutchen's stellar spring and Hart's struggles, the Bucs have a lot of love for the former Cub. Heck, all the brass showed up to watch him, so it's still apparently his job to lose.

And Octavio Dotel worked an intra-squad game; he got in 1-1/3 frames with three strikeouts on eighteen pitches. He'll make his first Grapefruit League appearance Wednesday, after missing time with an oblique strain.

-- The Pirates have a three game McKechnie Field homestand beginning tomorrow, when they host the Astros, followed by Boston and Atlanta. The pitching is still up in the air because of the rainout and off-day.

-- Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has the Pittsburgh "Offseason In Review."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bucs Bumble

Charlie Morton allowed three runs (two earned) and four hits in 4-2/3 innings of work, with three K's and two walks. But it wasn't enough as the Pirates dropped another Grapefruit League game, 5-2, to the Baltimore Orioles.

Chris Jakubauskas gave up two runs the eighth to pretty much ice the game for the O's. Jeremy Powell faced a batter, and DJ Carrasco went two scoreless frames, giving up a hit and walk while fanning one.

The Bucs had nine hits, with Ryan Church and Luke Carlin each notching a pair, but went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They scored on a Garrett Jones sac fly and an error after loading the bases with no one out in the opening frame.

They had one more chance, but with two on and one out in the eighth, Brandon Moss tapped into a DP. He was 0-for-4 and left six runners on base. Spring stats don't mean much, but geez...

Starling Marte and Shelby Ford were today's minor-league backups. Marte got a broken bat single, and Ford singled, too.

-- The Pirates take on the Tampa Bay Rays tomorrow in Bradenton. Daniel McCutchen will make his first spring start; guess Kevin Hart is finally being sent a message. McCutchen bumped Zach Duke, who will work a minor league game instead tomorrow in Pirate City.

He’ll be followed by Vinnie Chulk, Octavio Dotel, Chris Jakubauskas, Brian Bass and Brian Burres.

-- Ramon Vazquez, who the Pirates had been showcasing of late, is day-to-day with a bruised shoulder after blocking a bad-hop grounder yesterday.

-- Tyler Kepler of the New York Times has a piece on Garrett Jones and his baseball journey.

-- Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune has a story about John Grabow and his value as a set-up guy for the Cubs.

-- Alex Speier of Sportsradio WEEI in Boston has an article that revisits and evaluates the Jay Bay trade.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bombs Away In F-L-A

Today, the often AWOL Bucco attack used the wind and some muscle to bop four long balls and pull away late from the Red Sox for a 9-7 win. Delwyn Young, Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce and John Raynor went long, accounting for seven of the nine runs.

For Young, it was his fifth bomb in six games; he shares the Grapefruit league lead in homers with Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez. Jones added a double and had 3 RBI.

Neil Walker continues to plug away; he was 1-for-2 and is hitting .455 while playing the outfield today. Besides third base, he's also been working at second; good to see him increasing his value this spring instead of grousing about being a Littlefield guy.

Jimmy Negrych and Jeremy Farrell were the minor-league extras today, and both singled this afternoon. And hey, Brandon Moss lined a one-base knock for his first hit of the spring, breaking an 0-for-22 stretch.

In his second straight start against the Red Sox, Paul Maholm allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits in four innings. He struck out two. Brian Burres, Brendan Donnelly, and Jean Machi each pitched scoreless innings; Jeff Karstens went 2/3 of an inning without giving up a run.

Evan Meek yielded a run on three hits in his frame. Vinnie Chulk lasted just one-third of an inning and was charged with three runs on three hits and two walks. Meek's had a spotty spring, and he's a key to the back end of the Pirate bullpen, especially with Joel Hanrahan on ice. His progress bears watching over the final couple of weeks.

-- The Pirates will visit Sarasota tomorrow to face the Orioles. Charlie Morton will make the start against Baltimore's Brad Bergesen. He'll be followed by D.J. Carrasco, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, and Jack Taschner.

-- Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata were assigned to Indy; it had something to do with a MLB service date, not their performances. Pedro was hitting .296, Jose .250.

Injured pitchers Tyler Yates, Neal Cotts, Craig Hansen and Jimmy Barthmaier were sent to minor league camp, along with Doug Bernier and Jonathan Van Every, for future assignment.

-- Jack Taschner overhauled his mechanics over the winter, and no, not under the Dr. Frankenstein sorcery of Joe Kerrigan. He went from an over-the-top release back to a three-quarter delivery, working out with his old college coach. Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review has the story.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bucs Bow

OK, GW admits he was sneaking cyber peeks at the Bobby M five and their valiant effort to upend 'Nova in the opening round of March Madness on the work PC instead of checking out the Bucs. It ended up a good decision.

Both teams blew early leads and went down to defeat at the bitter end. For the Bucs, it was the same ol' same ol', playing just well enough to lose.

Carl Pavano went five innings for the Twins, and gave up a run on a hit, Jason Jaramillo's solo shot in the third. Ross Ohlendorf kept it close, surrendering a pair of runs in four innings on four hits with a couple of Ks.

The Pirates took the lead by playing some long ball with Pavano's replacement, Clay Condrey, when Delwyn Young and Jeff Clement went yard in the sixth to key a three spot. Someone better hose Young off; he's hotter right now than the Florida sunshine.

Chris Jakubauskas and Javier Lopez each pitched one scoreless inning, but the Bucco bats were done for the day. Jack Taschner served up a homer in the seventh, and Brian Bass yielded single runs in the eighth and ninth, including a walk-off RBI double.

So today's lesson for both Robert Morris and Pittsburgh: it isn't how you start the game; it's how you finish.

-- The Bucs take on the Red Sox tomorrow afternoon at McKechnie Field. The scheduled pitchers are Paul Maholm (4 innings or 60 pitches), Brendan Donnelly, Vinnie Chulk, Evan Meek, and Brian Burres.

-- As hot as Young is, Brandon Moss ain't. He wore the collar again today, and is now 0-for-22.

-- Octavio Dotel worked a minor league scrimmage and is scheduled to to make his first appearance in the Grapefruit League on Sunday against the Rays.

-- The Indians DFA'ed Brian Bixler. Guess the change of scenery didn't change much for BB.

-- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs did a piece on the Pirate's organizational strength. He's not impressed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another Day, Another Loss.

Kevin Hart was supposed to go three innings today; he lasted 1-1/3. Hart faced twelve batters, and that jury of Tiger hitters drew six walks, with another Motown batter getting beaned.

While that may or may not bode poorly for his chances to make the team - the Pirates, oddly, still love his "stuff" and fault mechanic changes he's working through - it didn't cost them the game.

He did only yield a run, thanks to a pick-off and two Ks. No, he didn't lose the game with his performance, but the bullpen guys who had been so solid in the early going did, leading to the Pirates 6-3 defeat.

Vinnie Chulk gave up a run, though he picked up a couple of whiffs. But DJ Carrasco and Brendan Donnelly each surrendered a deuce, and that was more than enough. Jeff Karstens and Evan Meek had strong outings, and Steve Jackson added another zero, though he really had to work for it.

In fact, it could have gotten really ugly. The Tigers left 16 runners on base.

Andrew McCutchen had a couple of hits and a stolen base, while Ryan Church and Pedro Alvarez each doubled. But it's the same old Bucs so far this spring; heck, they even lost three guys on the bases in the first three innings on a caught stealing, pick-off, and throw-out.

As far as the outing hurting Hart, here's what JR told Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette: "He's working on it. He's made a lot of progress. He just hasn't been able to take it out into the game yet. You see signs of it, and then he reverts back a little bit. We'll see where we go. He realizes what position he's in. At some point, he's got to equate that to a game."

"Fortunately, the way we're lined up, we have pretty much all of spring training to make the evaluation. We'll just keep giving him the opportunity, and see if he can work it out."

Jen Langosch of is even more direct: "Hart's struggles coupled with Daniel McCutchen's solid performances are probably a worst-case-scenario for the club. Why? Because it's going to be really hard to justify putting a pitcher who has so far shown no consistency with his mechanics on the Opening Day roster." But...

"Don't assume that Hart can't still make this team. In fact, the possibility of the Pirates using a four-man rotation for most of the first few weeks of the season is looking more and more likely. The club could get by with using a fifth starter once and skipping him twice during the first two and a half weeks because of three early off days. That could give Hart time to work with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan..."

And you wonder why the Pirates are a punchline instead of a contender. You don't have to win spot here; you're handed one. So much for "accountability."

Listen, GW understands upside and all that jazz. You'll hear nary a whimper if Brandon Moss, now 0-for-20, sticks over a Rule 5 pick for the fifth outfield spot. But coddling Hart is a mystery. He has an option; wouldn't it be better to let him straighten out his mechanics in Indy, where it wouldn't cost the team any games?

-- But hey, don't let a few walks ruin your day. Ron Washington admitted sticking a spoon under his nose last year, and that led Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk to a rehash of the snake's-belly, lowest time in Bucco history, the Cocaine Trials.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Camp Battles

Going into Florida, the Bucs had just a handful of battles for roster spots. Here's how they've shaken out in the first couple of weeks:

Ins - Lastings Milledge, Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Andy LaRoche, Ronny Cedeno, Aki Iwomura, and Ryan Doumit in the lineup; Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, and Charlie Morton in the rotation; the bullpen and bench are discussed later in the post.

Jeff Clement - He's the missing piece. If he shows enough, first base is his for the taking. If not, he still has an option left to polish his game at Indy, which would create a domino effect on the lineup and roster. So far, Clement hasn't hit a lick in Florida.

His line is .130/.217/.286 in 23 at-bats. He's shown a little pop - 2 of his 3 hits have been doubles - and fielded his new position at first adequately. He can pick a throw, not too surprising for a catcher, but hasn't been challenged yet in the field. The bunt is a foreign animal during the spring when the pitchers don't bat.

If he gets sent down, it will be during the final cut, so he still has two and half weeks to get his bat in order. If he can't, the plan is to put Jones at first and take Ryan Church off the pine and start him in right field while changing the bench dynamics.

Jones hasn't hit much better - he's sitting on a .160 average - but he's swatted two homers and driven in seven runs, so he's still legitimate in the middle of the order. Church has had an even rougher start, hitting .158. So no one is really pulling away in this competition; it looks like it will go to the wire.

Ronny Cedeno - This is another spot that is the incumbents to lose. Cedeno has a .235/.278/.471 line, about usual; his MO has been a low average with a little power. Bobby Crosby has been raking, with a .381 average and .952 slugging percentage, with 3 homers, 3 doubles, and nine RBI. That showing hasn't seemed to made much impact on the suits as far as the every-day lineup is concerned, though it makes Ramon Vazquez's spot very iffy on the bench.

Kevin Hart - It was supposed to be a free-for-all with Daniel McCutchen and perhaps dark horse candidate Brad Lincoln for the fifth spot in the rotation. But early in camp, JR was high on Hart, and it appears the suits are going to give him every opportunity to join the pitching staff.

So far, Hart has gotten a pair of starts, and lasted just three innings, giving up seven runs on four hits and seven walks, with just one K. That's an early 21.00 ERA. McCutchen hasn't gotten to start yet, and even worked an intrasquad game to stretch his arm. But in his four innings, he's put together a 2.25 ERA, surrendering three hits, striking out three, and walking nary a soul.

Still, it doesn't look like McCutchen can win the battle alone; it's Hart's to win or lose because the Pirates are so enamored of his stuff. He has three starts left to show he belongs. If a couple of them are decent, he's probably in. Adding to the mix is the early season off days; the Bucs will only need a fifth starter once until late in April.

Hart has an option left, and McCutchen has all three of his available to the team, which at least for this season is a drawback for starting his MLB clock. Lincoln was sent down during the first round of cuts, but he could be back in mid-season to challenge again. They say you never have too much pitching, and this may be one of those situations.

With the early season off-days and because both are seen as starters, the loser isn't likely to stick around as a long man; he'll probably go to Indy and join their rotation.

Catcher - There was never any question here; Doumit da man. But Jason Jaramillo has received amazingly little love, and Eric Kratz has made some noise with his bat. There's been talk of sending JJ down to get everyday work at Indy until the season picks up.

Working against that is that even though Jaramillo has a pair of options remaining, Kratz isn't on the forty man roster, and someone will have to be cut free to make room for him (although a quick back-of-the-envelope look at the current roster shows probably three openings after final cuts, without trades).

Bench - If Clement sticks, Church, Crosby, and a catcher are locks. That leaves two spots. Delwyn Young has been clubbing the ball (.375/.444/.792, 3 HR, 10 RBI) and is out of options, so if the notoriously thin-skinned suits get over his refusal to play winter ball, the switch-hitter is in. Of course, that's if he remains a Pirate; we understand several teams have made inquiries regarding him.

And then there was one. Neil Walker has two options left, and Steve Pearce one, so they'll start at Indy. Vazquez has Crosby and Young ahead of him; his only saving grace is the $2M contract for 2010.

The logical choice to stick is Rule 5 pickup John Raynor, a Punch and Judy hitter with a .421 average so far this spring, and the only true back-up to Andrew McCutchen in center. Brandon Moss has gone 0-for-the spring, but he's out of options, and you know the Pirates would hate to give his potential away for a bag of bullpen balls.

So Raynor-Moss looks like the cage match; winner stays, loser slinks off into the sunset to another organization.

The suits haven't really embraced Raynor (they think he needs more development), and his center field skills could be redundant in a couple of months if Jose Tabata gets his call later this season. On the other hand, the brass love Moss' tools, and like Hart, seem like they're going to give him every benefit of the doubt. Should be an interesting choice.

Of course, there are still the what ifs...what if Clement doesn't earn a spot; what if the Pirates deal a couple of guys (and by next weekend, when rosters are beginning to jell, the GM's will be working the phones hot and heavy; the O's and Rangers are said to have a little interest in Vazquez); what if they work out a deal to keep Raynor, ala Evan Meek...which leads us to the...

Bullpen - Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, Evan Meek, Javier Lopez and DJ Carrasco appear in; Joel Hanrahan will join them, but not on Opening Day. He hasn't pitched live since injuring his elbow.

On performance, LHP Jack Taschner (0.00 ERA, 10 Ks in 6 innings) and RHP Vinnie Chulk (3.00 ERA, 8 Ks in six innings) have the upper hand. RHPs Brian Bass and Anthony Claggett have been sharp, too, although Claggett is almost certain to end up at Indy again.

This will be an area with lots of changes. Hanrahan will be back early in the season to knock someone out. When Jose Ascanio returns to action, he'll need a spot, too - he's out of options. And they'll have to decide what to do with Tyler Yates later in the summer, when he's ready to work after TJ surgery. Neal Cott and perhaps Craig Hansen should also be ready sometime in 2010. If nothing else, the numbers are there to keep things hopping.

And finally, the fearless Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette has his 25-man roster prognostication in this article.

-- BTW, make sure you check out the other Pirate sites on the blogroll on the right; the guys do a great job. The blogosphere gang has visited Bradenton, done analysis, featured bios, and have the game recaps. It's all good stuff for a Bucco fan.

(Word of caution - the batting averages and ERAs, good, bad or ugly, aren't more than a current snapshot; even GW recognizes that spring training stats are about as meaningful as a promise of "the check is in the mail." Still, it is all we've got to go on, so....)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Florida Sun Hot; Florida Bats Cold

The Bucs had one bad inning from the pitching and no good innings from their hitters today as they fell to the Phillies 5-1.

Zach Duke posted the second consecutive strong start, following Charlie Morton's effort yesterday, with 3-2/3 frames of one-run ball. He allowed two hits and three walks while striking out four and struggled with command of his curve. The Zachster ran into trouble in the fourth, giving up his run, and Evan Meek came on to get the last out.

But in the fifth, the Phils got to Meek for three runs on four hits. The Pirates had him stressing his hook today, and apparently it still needs some polishing.

Jeremy Powell worked two innings and gave up a solo homer. Javier Lopez and Jack Taschner each pitched scoreless innings, though Taschner danced between the raindrops a bit, giving up a hit and walk to go along with two whiffs.

The Bucs were held to four hits, as their sticks continue in feast or famine mode.

The Pirates will be off Tuesday before returning to Grapefruit League action on Wednesday when they host the Tigers at 1:05 PM. Kevin Hart will make the start, and needs to step up his game after being smacked around in his first two appearances.

-- AAA ump Justin Vogel was behind the plate, and his strike zone was all over the place, and said to be especially generous for Roy Halladay. Of course, with his rep, Doc is going get his share of the calls, but remember when you cry about the calls, it can always be worse.

-- The Turk roamed around Pirate City again today, chopping seven more players. RHP Brad Lincoln and LHP Donnie Veal were optioned to Indianapolis. RHP Bryan Morris was sent to the Bradenton Marauders. C Tony Sanchez was reassigned to the minor league camp, as were RHP Virgil Vasquez, RHP Jeff Sues and LHP Justin Thomas.

Sanchez is almost certain to start the season at High A Bradenton; the final landing spot for the three pitchers is yet to be determined between Indy and Altoona.

-- Daniel McCutchen pitched four innings of intrasquad ball today to get some innings in; he's been the odd man out in the rotation. He gave up three hits with three strikeouts in a scoreless outing. Still, that's a sign that the Pirates are going to give Hart every chance to take that last rotation spot.

-- Octavio Dotel threw today, and is expected to get in a minor league game soon. He should be ready to rejoin the club this weekend, and is on course to be on the opening day roster.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Morton Salts One Away

Hey, you may recall that when the Bucs faced guys like Mike Hampton last season, they rolled over and played dead; conversely, they managed to hang tough against the top guns. Same tale this spring, at least against the Yankees.

They can't touch Alfredo Aceves, but treat CC Sabathia like a stray mutt. The Pirates rolled to a 10-5 win this afternoon against CC and the Bronx Bombers, marred only by a Keystone Kop ninth inning.

Charlie Morton finally looked like the linchpin of the Nate McLouth trade today, pitching four scoreless innings and giving a hit and walk with four strikeouts. Unlike prior starts, his fastball command was right on, he worked both sides of the plate, and he threw his soft stuff for strikes.

Vinnie Chulk, Jeff Karstens, and Ron Uviedo were all strong, and Brendan Donnelly escaped unscathed after getting himself into a seventh inning, bases juiced jam. Jean Machi, though, help orchestrate a ninth inning mini-meltdown.

He threw away a DP ball, then Jose Tabata was befuddled by a wind-driven fly. A passed ball got lost by catcher Hector Gimenez, allowing two runners to score. After a walk, Machi got the hook and Uviedo finished up with a 1-2-3 effort.

But with a stiff wind blowing out and a high sun, it was a day for the hitters; at least Pittsburgh's. They banged out five homers among their fourteen hits. Bobby Crosby dinged a pair, and Aki Iwamura, Delwyn Young, and Steve Pearce added to the booty.

Crosby went 3-for-3, adding a double to his two homers and driving in three runs. Young and Lastings Milledge each had a pair of hits. And Crosby wasn't even in the starting lineup; he came on when Ronny Cedeno stole second and got his hand stomped on for his efforts (note to Ronny; slide feet first next time). He's OK, just cut up a bit, and will take off tomorrow and be back in action.

The Pirates' Bomb Squad game with the Orioles ended in a 1-1 tie. It was quite the opposite of the main game; Brian Friday had the Pirates' only hit, a single. Friday isn't ready to challenge for a spot yet, but he's been solid in his first camp.

Brad Lincoln gave up a run on two hits during his three inning stint. He struck out four and walked one. Brian Burres, Bryan Morris (3K), and Donnie Veal each worked two scoreless innings behind Lincoln, with Jeff Sues (2K) hurling a perfect tenth frame.

The Pirates host the Phil's at McKechnie tomorrow afternoon. Zach Duke will start against Roy Halladay. The Zachster will be followed by Evan Meek, Jeremy Powell, Javier Lopez, and Jack Taschner.

-- The Pirates sent the Turk out today. OF Brandon Jones and SS Argenis Diaz were shipped to Indy. RHPs Ronald Uviedo and Ramon Aguero, along with CF Gorkys Hernandez, were optioned to Altoona. Brian Friday was assigned to minor league camp, and is expected to be Indy's starting shortstop in 2010.

So with that half dozen gone and another six in various states of rehab, the camp roster is down to 54 players.

-- If you're wondering why it took so long for the light to come on for Pirate prospect Bryan Morris, he told Rob King of FSN Sports that the Pirates made some mechanical changes in his delivery last year, and he fought them. After a session in the fall Instructional League, he's got his head screwed on straight again, and it's been showing in his work.

-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette has a piece on five-tool prospect Starling Marte, who's got the Pirate scouts' drawers in a bunch with his physical skills.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bucs Forget Bats Again

Hey, the good news is that the pitching, with one very noticeable exception, held up pretty well. The bad news is that whatever Donnie Long is teaching Pirate hitters isn't sinking in.

The Pirates went down 3-2 to the Red Sox, despite Paul Maholm's three shut-out innings to start the game. His command wasn't great, but he allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three.

Javier Lopez, Jack Taschner, DJ Carrasco, Anthony Claggett and Jeremy Powell all put up zeroes after Maholm. But Chris Jakubauskas blew his second save of the Grapefruit League season when he was lit up for three runs on three hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning. And that was all she wrote.

The attack didn't help, pounding out all of four hits. Delwyn Young homered and Steve Pearce doubled the last run home. The Pirates again had a chance to pull it out in the ninth, but...

...with two aboard and nobody out, Gorkys Hernandez lined out to shortstop Jose Iglesias, who flipped to second to force out Jonathan Van Every, and the Red Sox then caught Brandon Jones in a rundown to complete a triple play after first throwing the ball away. Not exactly fundamental baserunning, boys.

Hey, we understand playing the Yankees, Phils, Red Sox, Twins, et al, is a challenge. But there are two areas of concern that are rearing their ugly heads so far this spring that have nothing to do with the competition, but with talent.

One is the lack of control by the Pirate staff, which added another seven walks to their total today. The other is the pop-gun offense, which is bombs-away twice a week and in sleep mode otherwise.

The Bucs will go as far as their pitching takes them, and without support, that won't be very far. Maybe the problem is trying to find time for everyone; there are 66 guys in camp, and most are seeing some action. It could be that after cutdown and some steady innings and at-bats, the pieces will fall together. But right now...well, 23 days to go before the games count.

-- There are two games tomorrow. The Pirates host the New York Yankees at 1:05 PM on MLB.TV. Charlie Morton will get the start, followed by Vinnie Chulk, Brendan Donnelly, Jean Machi, and Jeff Karstens.

-- There's also a B game at Pirate City against the O's; Brad Lincoln will take the hill for that one, backed by Brian Burres, Bryan Morris, Donnie Veal, and Jeff Sues.

-- Jeff Passan of Yahoo!Sports has a nice piece on Matt Stairs, who made the Pirates one of his many big league stops.

Brain Giles Hangs 'Em Up

Brian Giles attended Granite Hills High School in his native El Cajun, California, and was drafted out of high school by the Cleveland Indians in the 17th round of the 1989 draft.

In the lower minors, Giles showed not much power, but had a knack for getting on base. In 1993, he hit .327 for AA Canton-Akron, and was moved up the ladder. His career took off at AAA Charlotte.

He batted .313 for Charlotte in 1994 and made the International League All-Star team. In 1995, Giles hit .310 for AAA Buffalo and got a September call-up to the Tribe. He was also an American Association All-Star.

Giles hit .355 in 51 games for the Indians in 1996 and hit .314 in 83 games with Buffalo, again making the American Association All-Star team. He also matured physically and developed a bit of a power stroke, hitting 51 long balls on the farm over those three seasons,

In 1997, Giles established himself as a major league regular, playing 130 games for the Indians and 112 games in 1998. He hit .268 and .269 with 33 homers and 127 RBI those two seasons, getting 727 at-bats as the Indians spare outfielder.

On November 18, 1998, he was traded to the Pirates for pitcher Ricardo Rincón. The Indians were concerned with the here and now, and Cam Bonifay had the lefty they wanted. As Mike Lange would say, after that deal, Cam was smilin' like a butcher's dog.

With the Pirates, Giles emerged as a middle-of-the-lineup outfielder who hit for average with great plate discipline. In 1999, he began a streak of four straight 30-homer seasons, never hitting lower than .298, and was named Pittsburgh Pirates Player of the Year from 1999-2002.

His debut season saw him put together a line of .315/.418/.614, with 39 homers, 115 RBI, and 109 runs. Giles walked 95 times and struck out 80. And he got better.

Giles led the 2000 club in doubles (37), triples (7), home runs (35), RBIs (123) and walks (114) while batting .315. He was eight RBI shy of Paul Waner's 1927 club record of 131. Giles became the first Bucco ever to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in back-to-back seasons.

His 114 walks were the most by a Pirate since 1992. Giles' 74 home runs in two seasons with club were the most in back-to-back seasons since Willie Stargell hit 77 in 1972-73. He was selected as a NL Player-of-the-Week and was co-winner one more time. Giles was named to All-Star squad.

In 2001 Giles established career highs in games played (160), at bats (576), runs (116) and hits (178). He tied career highs in doubles and triples. At the end of the season, Giles ranked tenth among NL players in runs, on-base percentage (.404, oddly enough his lowest as a Pirate) and slugging percentage (.590). He led the Pirates in batting (.309), home runs (37) and walks (90).

He tied Dave Parker's club record for most total bases (340) by a left-handed hitter. Giles hit his 100th career home run as a member of the Pirates on August 9, becoming one of seventeen players to homer 100 times as a Pirate. He was selected to play in the All- Star Game again.

He continued putting up monster numbers in 2002, though he hit a Pirate-era low of .298. Giles ranked second in the league in walks with 135. His .450 on-base percentage tied him for the second-best mark in the majors. Giles ranked second in the NL with a slugging percentage of .622, sixth in home runs with 38, second with 80 extra-base hits, tied for second in the league with 13 outfield assists and finished third in the senior circuit with 24 intentional walks. And he didn't make the All-Star team!

But he was in the second year of a five-year deal and did make $8,063,003. And we all know what that meant during in the Dave Littlefield era (and today, of course).

On August 26, 2003, he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Corey Stewart. And ya know what? It was a pretty sweet deal, unquestionably Littlefield's best.

Bay took over left field and the middle of the order nicely, Perez filled a rotation spot for awhile, and when it was time to turn them over, the Pirates ultimately ended up with Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, and Andy LaRoche, along with a bagful of trinkets.

Giles went on to have a couple of good seasons with the Padres, but his power disappeared and his knee turned arthritic. He got one more good contract, had miscrosurgery, and tried to catch on this year as a bench player for the Dodgers, but for naught. He retired before the Turk came calling.

During his career he played for the Indians, Pirates and Padres. He was a two-time All-Star, got MVP votes five times, and had a career line of .291/.400/.502 with 287 home runs, 411 doubles, 1,078 RBIs, and 1,183 walks in 1,847 games.

But it was as a Pirate that he shined. In 715 games, he had a line of .308/.426/.591, with an OPS of 1.170 - he was over 1.000 three of his four plus years in Pittsburgh - and added 165 homers, 506 RBI, and 501 runs scored.

Giles wasn't one of the more beloved Pirates; he wasn't great at PR, is currently involved in a nasty lawsuit with an old gal pal, and he and Jason Kendall led an old school frat-house locker room of card-players that loved hazing rookies, especially those with a little spunk, the best example being young Jack Wilson.

But when it came time to show up between the lines, he did. And to this day, he's the cream of the Pirate crop to play after the Bobby Bonds/Jim Leyland era closed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Bats Were Willing, But The Pitching Was Weak...

Hey, it's one of those half-filled, half-empty glass kinda days. The Pirate batsmen banged out fifteen hits, drew eight walks, smacked three homers and scored fifteen runs. They lost.

The Pirate pitchers yielded fifteen hits, gave up seven walks, surrendered four homers, and let sixteen Ray runners cross the dish. Aye carumba! Maybe it was the thirty MPH winds; but then again...

The Bucs forged ahead 5-0 in the opening frame, powered by a three run Andy LaRoche bases-juiced double and a two-run Ronny Cedeno shot.

The Rays tied it an inning later, helped by three Kevin Hart walks and a single that Jose Tabata misplayed and turned into a four-sacker.

The Bucs kept nibbling, but a three-run fifth by Tampa against Jean Machi, who gave up a pair of dingers, and a seven-run seventh against Jeff Karstens and Ramon Aguero (who also gave up a pair of homers) was too much to overcome. Virgil Vasquez came on to give up a run in the ninth that would prove to be the coffin nail.

Still, some guys hung tough. Jack Taschner, Evan Meek, Jeremy Powell, and Donnie Veal all worked scoreless frames; Taschner, Powell, and Veal have yet to give up a run in Grapefruit play.

The Bucs had a chance; they scored four times in the ninth, but station-to-station running did them in. With runners on first and second, one out, and the score 16-15, Jonathan Van Every singled into right, but Young was held at third. And he died there when Brandon Jones K'ed and Jeff Clement popped up to the catcher.

Neil Walker, Delwyn Young, and Lastings Milledge led the hitting parade with a pair of knocks each; Walker and Young, who collected 4 RBI, went yard.

Walker especially has been taking advantage of limited opportunities; in 11 plate appearances, he has three hits, four walks, a homer, 2 RBI and 4 runs with a line of .429/.636/.857. Of course, an 0-for day could send those numbers crashing, just as his 2-for-2 day this afternoon sent them soaring, but so far, so good.

The Bucs send Ross Ohlendorf out against the Braves at Orlando tomorrow, but if the weatherman is right, it'll be a wash-out. And the clock is ticking. The Pirates have 66 guys in camp; the Turk should pop up this weekend.

-- The beat guys report that Octavio Dotel and Joel Hanrahan are throwing long-toss, but Hanrahan isn't expected to be ready when camp breaks.

-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette talked to Ramon Vazquez, who said that he was told as of today, he wouldn't be on the 25-man roster. Looking good for Delwyn Young...but there's still a couple of weeks to go.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Duke Dunked

The Dukester stormed out the gate tonight - and then fell flat on his puss. Duke struck the first two batters he faced, then allowed a triple, two walks and three singles Bingo, 3-0 before the Pirates came to bat (shades of 2008!).

Still, he straightened out and flew semi-straight, allowing a hit and a walk over his last six hitters. Duke couldn't find the plate, and it's a long night when he has command issues.

The Pirates made it 3-2 in the second on Pedro Alvarez and Ramon Vazquez singles, but the fat lady made an early appearance then; neither club would scored after that.

The Bucs made some ninth inning noise when Jose Tabata hustled his way into a two-out infield single and stole second, but the seldom used Brandon Jones rolled one to second to end what little drama there was.

The pitching was sterling after Duke. Steve Jackson got the final out of the third with a whiff, Daniel McCutchen tossed a pair of perfecto frames with 2 Ks, and Brendan Donnelly (2K), Javier Lopez (1 hit, 1 K, 1W), Chris Jakubauskas, and Vinnie Chulk (2K) threw a scoreless inning each.

Vazquez had a pair of hits; together, the Pirates collected just six knocks, with only three coming in the final seven innings.

Tomorrow's game is against the Rays at McKechnie at 1:05 PM, and the Buc pitchers will be Kevin Hart (2 or 3 innings, 50 pitch limit), Jeff Karstens, Jack Taschner, Evan Meek, Donnie Veal, Jean Machi, and Jeremy Powell.

-- Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette updated the Bucco minor league injury list. Three Pirates pitching prospects, Colton Cain, Zach Fuesser and Brett Lorin, will be out until late June/early July because of injuries.

None are arm related; Cain had back surgery, Fuesser broke a finger, and Lorin had hip surgery.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bucs Bop

CC Sabathia, Boone Logan, Hector Noesi, Charlie Morton and Brian Burres pretty much put on a clinic of how not to pitch this afternoon.

The first four Bucs bopped CC - Andrew McCutchen singled, Ronny Cedeno doubled, Lastings Milledge singled, and Garrett Jones bombed one - as he struggled through 2-1/3 innings, scattering seven hits and allowing five earned runs, with one walk and two strikeouts.

The Yankees picked it up some after that, and silenced the Bucco bats on two hits until the eighth frame. That's when Logan gave up a pair of runs to toe the game at sevens, the inning keyed by Bobby Crosby's double.

The Pirates added four more in the ninth, when Mr. Noesi gave up three hits and a walk. John Raynor, Pedro Alvarez, Steve Pearce, and Hector Gimenez drove the runs home, making it 12-7.

Not that the first two Bucco hurlers fared much better. Morton had control issues again, and gave up three runs and four hits in three innings, striking out two and walking two. Nick Johnson loved him; up twice, homered twice.

And he looked like Sandy Koufax compared to Burres. BB couldn't stagger through an inning; he gave up a couple of hits and walked three while surrendering four runs and notching just two outs. But hey, he did fan a guy.

But then the pen came through. Ron Uviedo finished the inning for Burres, and DJ Carrasco worked the fifth and sixth, striking out four batters while yielding a hit. Donnie Veal got through a pair of frames, walking a pair and earning the win. Anthony Claggett, a former Yankee farmhand, closed it out.

There were some nice performances this afternoon. John Raynor (.538), Bobby Crosby (2 doubles), Garrett Jones (home run, double), and Ronny Cedeno (double) each had a pair of hits. You could tell it's been a while since Cedeno has been on base; he was picked off second and thrown out trying to steal third.

In McKechnie Field's only night game of the spring, Pittsburgh will try to even their Grapefruit League slate against the Orioles tomorrow when Zach Duke will take the mound for the Pirates, followed by Daniel McCutchen. The 7:05 PM game will air on MLB.TV.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Ouch. After banging out 15 hits yesterday, the Bucco A team managed one well placed bouncer for a knock today, losing to the Pinstripers 6-0. Yah, it was as ugly as it sounds.

Alfredo Aceves spun four perfect innings, mesmerizing the Bucs with an assortment of soft stuff, always a Pirate bugaboo. Ivan Nova gave up Steve Pearce's bleeer, and the next two Yank hurlers, Zach McAllister and Jason Hirsch, shut the door.

Paul Maholm had a rough start, falling behind hitters and walking one batter while giving up three ground ball singles; it was 2-0 before the Bucs came to bat. Little did they know the game was already over.

Virgil Vasquez gave up a pair of runs in the seventh - and lowered his ERA to 33.75! Danny Moskos worked the ninth, and gave up a run on three hits. Escaping with their dignity were Steve Jackson, Javier Lopez, and Justin Thomas, who worked perfect innings, and Jeremy Powell, who gave up an unearned run in two frames.

The bomb squad put up a better fight against the Rays, dropping a 4-3, ten inning decision when Jeff Sues gave up a two-out hit to take the loss.

Brian Friday smacked a two-run dinger, and Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata each had a pair of hits. They both tripled; Pedro had an RBI and run, Jose a tally.

Evan Meek blew a two-run lead in the eighth, and Brad Lincoln gave up a run in his two innings, surrendering two hits and walking three. Brian Bass and Jeff Karstens added a pair of scoreless innings, while Jack Taschner - the official surprise of camp so far - and Jean Machi also put up goose eggs.

As far as the non-competition at short, Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby each had a boot and wore the collar today. Cedeno is hitting .091; Crosby .273.

Tomorrow, The Pirates and Yankees will meet again at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Yankees ace CC Sabathia will take the mound for the Bronx Bombers; the Bucs scheduled arms are Charlie Morton, expected to go three innings or fifty pitches, followed by Brian Burres and D.J. Carrasco, who are slated for a pair of innings each.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bombs Away

The Bucco batters felt right at home at McKechnie Field, and it showed as they bombed the Minnesota Twins by a 15-5 tally. About time; they only scored thirteen runs total in the previous four games.

The pitching started off raggedy enough, with Ross Ohlendorf giving up a two-run homer in his two innings and Chris Jakubauskas not lasting that long, as he walked two and gave up three hits and three runs in his 1-2/3 frames.

But after that, it was lights out. Vinnie Chulk fanned five of the six batters he faced, and Anthony Claggett struck out the side in his inning (both gave up a hit). Ron Uviedo, Bryan Morris, and Ramon Aguero added hitless work, with Uviedo piocking up the win.

Bobby Crosby, who worked with Mark McGwire (on his swing, not his pharmaceuticals) during the off season, went 2-for-3 with four RBI, 2 runs, and a big three-run bomb into the wind. He started at first base, good for versatility, not so hot for challenging Ronny Cedeno. Oh, we forgot - he's not. That explains that.

Garrett Jones also went deep, while four other Pirates collected a pair of hits: John Raynor (double, triple), Pedro Alvarez (triple), Ryan Doumit and Hector Gimenez. Raynor and Delwyn Young (bases juiced double) both had 3 RBI.

The Pirates will send out split squads tomorrow to face the New York Yankees at home and the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte. Paul Maholm will make a three-inning start in the home contest, and Brad Lincoln will go against the Rays for the first two frames.

Weekend Report

After the first few games at camp, the players look like they came to Bradenton ready to play. The positional rundown to date:

Outfield: Andrew McCutchen is off to a scorching start, and Lastings Milledge and Garrett Jones look ready to hold on to their positions. Ryan Church has been more than solid. Brandon Moss, 100% healthy, isn't ready to concede his roster spot. John Raynor and Jose Tabata are keeping themselves in the mix. Gorkys Hernandez hasn't shown anything, Brandon Jones remains a mystery man, and Delwyn Young has taken all his reps and innings at second base.

Starters: So who can tell with a two-inning limit and just once around the rotation to date? All the guys kept the ball down, and except for Charlie Morton and Kevin Hart, in the strike zone.

Fifth Starter: Daniel McCutchen and Kevin Hart weren't very sharp in their first outings. They're keeping Brad Lincoln in the race for that final spot, although both 2009 holdovers would have to go down in flames for Lincoln to have his MLB clock started in April.

Bullpen: Lookin' good, except for Steve Jackson and Virgil Vasquez. Jack Taschner has been a pleasant surprise, striking out five of the six batters that he's faced. Still, it's awfully thin until Octavio Dotel and Joel Hanrahan come back from injuries; both are supposed to be ready before camp ends. Until then, we won't find out if Dotel is the next Jose Mesa - or Solly Torres.

Shortstop: Ronny Cedeno continues to look like, well, Ronny Cedeno. Bobby Crosby has been solid in the field and at bat, but it is still Cedeno's job to lose, so say the suits (although GW has no idea why the spot isn't an open competition).

First Base: Jeff Clement has been making all the routine plays and making contact; so far, so good with the experiment.

Second Base: Aki Iwamura has been steady; he's shown the patience to hit in the two hole though he hasn't shown that he's a pull hitter who can take advantage of the second base hole yet. Range at second hasn't been great, but it's early and he does have a brace on his knee, so that will bear watching.

Third Base: Andy LaRoche is sharp so far; finding a place for him when Pedro comes up should be a Pirate priority.

Catcher: Ryan Doumit owns the spot. But Eric Kratz has been the camp surprise with his stick, and Tony Sanchez has lived up to his top gun selection in last year's draft. Jason Jaramillo hasn't gotten much work, and while we think he's set as a back-up, he'd be wise to pick it up with Kratz making some noise.

Bench: Way too early to speculate; the Bucs have several options and configurations available to them.

So it's been a good couple of weeks at camp so far; most players look up to the challenge. But there are still miles to go...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sister Smoochin'

The Bucs and Phils took it ten innings, and in Grapefruit League reckoning, that's more than enough. They called it quits tied 3-3.

Kevin Hart walked four and allowed one hit in the seven Phillies batters he faced, and gave up a pair of runs in his single inning, saved from a complete trainwreck by a timely DP ball. Steve Jackson gave up the other run

The rest of the staff was sharp. D.J. Carrasco struck out two, walked one and allowed one hit in his two innings of work. Brendan Donnelly struck out two batters in his inning, and Jack Taschner allowed one hit and struck out the side in his frame.

Justin Thomas had a perfect inning, as did Jeff Sues, who notched a K. Donnie Veal and Jean Machi put up a goose egg, each yielding a hit.

Jeff Clement drove in the first run in the opening frame, doubling home Andrew McCutchen, who had singled and stolen second (McCutch was 2-for-2 with a walk, and 1-for-2 stealing). Ryan Church followed with a homer, the first of his two hits, and that was it for the Buccos.

Bobby Crosby made a couple of sweet plays at short, and the DP ball that saved the game was snagged by a diving Ramon Vazquez, who started the twin killing on his tummy from second base.

Oh, and plaudits to McCutch's mom Petrina, who the beat guys said did a bang-up job belting out the National Anthem to start the game.

Pittsburgh will host the Twins at McKechnie Field on Sunday at 1:05 PM. Ross Ohlendorf will make the start for the Pirates, and throw the first two innings, followed by Chris Jakubauskas, Vinnie Chulk, Justin Thomas, Bryan Morris and Virgil Vasquez.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Off The Schneid...

Hey, the Bucs came from behind to take a 5-3 win from the O's tonight, their first of the Grapefruit campaign, led by last year's top pick, Tony Sanchez.

He was a late inning replacement for Ryan Doumit, and homered in his only at-bat after fighting off some pitches, gunned down a would-be base stealer, and threw out a runner when he pounced on a drag bunt. Nice way to open camp.

Zach Duke and Daniel McCutchen started, and both gave up a run in two innings of work; not much to be analyzed in their opening act except that it looked like their first start. Jeremy Powell gave up the other run without surrendering up a hit or walk. A boot by Aki Owamura, a roller that went through Ronny Cedeno's wickets, and a low throw by Neil Walker did the damage.

The last four innings were Oriole goose eggs thanks to Javier Lopez, Evan Meek, Ramon Aguero, and Ron Uviedo, each tapped for a hit in an inning of work. Aguero got the W; Uviedo the save.

The RBIs went to Iwamura, Garrett Jones, Sanchez, Delwyn Young, and Jose Tabata, with Young and Tabata doing the honors in the ninth against Rhymin' Alfredo Simon to bring home the bacon.

Notable performances included stolen bases by Young, Walker, and Cedeno. Walker went one-for-two with two walks and a pair of runs; Rule 5 OFer John Raynor went 2-for-4. Bummers were those three errors and twelve Ks collected by the Bucco lineup.

Tomorrow, the squad opens its McKechnie Field schedule against the Phils at 1:05 PM, broadcast by 104.7 FM WPGB. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Potson will throw out the first pitch, and Andrew McCutchen's mother, Petrina, will sing the national anthem.

The Pirates will start off with Kevin Hart and DJ Carrasco (2 innings/45 pitches), Brendan Donnelly, Donnie Veal, Jack Taschner, Steve Jackson, and Jean Machi (inning apiece).

Friday Frisbee

-- Ya know, we've made mention that we're a little leery of the way the Bucs treat their wounded. Guys like Brandon Moss and Paul Maholm tell us that they played basically one-legged last season (and may we quickly add, by their own choice).

Any number of pitchers have reported minor twinges, and the next thing we know is that they're out for six weeks, followed by a visit by the knife. Now Nate McLouth tells the beat writers that he's wearing contacts in 2010. The Pirates, to paraphrase Nate the Great, gave an eye exam that a blind man could pass.

Hey suits - evaluating and amassing talent is job one, but trying to keep them on the field is pretty important, too. You might want to sharpen up your player diagnostics a bit.

-- Chuck Finder of the Post Gazette shakes a stick at the Pirates mob of outfielders.

-- Scott Miller of CBS Sports has the annual Pirate preview.

-- Tim Marchman of SI's Inside Baseball rated the MLB GMs, and here's what he had to say about Neil Huntington (whom he ranked #20):

"There's something to be said for aggressively trying to clean up a disaster. The Pirates have gone longer without winning than any team ever has, and while they won't turn that around any time soon, Huntington's program of getting rid of any veteran of any value in exchange for whatever young talent he can get is absolutely the right one."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bucs Get Chopped

Two Pirate pitchers, Charlie Morton and Brian Burres, combined for a line of four innings, three runs, two hits, seven walks, and two hit batters. Maybe Joe Kerrigan needed to set up his pink strings for the duo.

The Pirates banged out four hits total (one an Andy LaRoche dinger), and the Buccos dropped their second spring outing by a 4-2 score.

But there was a silver lining, at least in the field. Jeff Clement again looked adequate at first, and the much maligned Delwyn Young was part of three DPs, starting one and turning a pair. Lastings Milledge threw a guy out at third and came within a gnat's eyelash of robbing Chipper Jones with a dive that came up just short in the fifth.

And Brad Lincoln got his first taste of the bigs. He got through his inning unscathed, but not unbloodied. He gave up a pair of knocks, but with runners on second and third and two away, he K'd Matt Diaz on three pitches. Kinda nice to have the ability to miss a bat when the chips are down, no?

Jeff Karstens worked a perfect frame, Anthony Claggett struck out a pair and walked one in his inning, and Vinnie Chulk gave up the fourth Brave run by yielding a hit and two walks in his appearance.

Bobby Crosby singled in the Bucs other run, while Ryan Church and Young also added singles. The Pirates left a dozen on base, although only four got into scoring position.

Tomorrow, they visit the O's in Sarasota. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 PM and will be radio-only, broadcast on 104.7 FM, WPGB.

Zach Duke and Daniel McCutchen will start and are slated for two innings of work apiece. Virgil Vasquez, Evan Meek, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Powell, and Claggett are scheduled pitch an inning each.

It should be another Bomb Squad extravaganza; the Pirates home opener is against the Phils on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 PM, and JR is expected to trot out his starting lineup then, the same one he used against the Yankees.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bombers vs Bucs

Here's the starting lineup for the Yankee exhibition. It looks like the one the Pirate suits hope to begin the year with (except for the DH). If Clement doesn't cut it, just switch him and Church, with Church in RF and Garrett Jones at first; ditto with Cedeno and Crosby at short.

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
2. Aki Iwamura, 2B
3. Garrett Jones, RF
4. Ryan Doumit, C
5. Ryan Church, DH
6. Lastings Milledge, LF
7. Jeff Clement, 1B
8. Andy LaRoche, 3B
9. Ronny Cedeno, SS

Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf started for Pittsburgh, followed by a motley mix-and-match crew.

It was a scoreless battle until the sixth, proving that pitchers are ahead of hitters in the early spring, with ground balls abounding. Iwamura and Clement looked fine in the field, and Dandy Andy LaRoche made a couple of nice plays at third.

However, Aki didn't look like a two hitter in his first Bucco effort; he had the patience, but an inside-out swing makes him unlikely to hit behind a runner. But there is still lots of time to see how that works out; it's the first time GW has seen Iwamura swing a bat.

Then came the scrubs for both sides. The Bucs replaced the starters with Steve Pearce (1B), Delwyn Young (2B), Argentis Diaz (SS), Pedro Alvarez (3B), John Raynor (LF), Gorkys Hernandez (CF), Jose Tabata (RF), and Eric Kratz/Hector Gimenez (C).

The Yanks jumped ahead 3-0 when Steve Jackson left a couple of pitches belt high and down the middle. One left the park while the other kissed the fence. Still, he could have gotten away with a single tally except Young and Diaz played bounce outs into hits, and Hernandez made a peg home that was positively Barry Bonds-esque.

But the Bomb Squad had an answer. Young got plunked, Tabata blooped a single, and Kratz doubled them in - maybe Jason Jaramillo will have some competition - and went to third on a bad relay, scoring on Church's slow roller to tie it.

Virgil Vasquez worked the ninth, briefly. A line single up the middle, a ground ball single through the second base hole, and a base-clearing walk-off blast to right center gave the Yankees a 6-3 win.

For the most part, the Pirate pitchers - Maholm, Ohlendorf, Brian Bass, D.J. Carrasco, Jack Taschner, Jean Machi (he struck out a pair and hit 94 on the gun) worked quickly and threw strikes; only Jackson and Vasquez got thumped while Chris Jakubauskas had some control issues.

So hey, the game is finally afoot. And in another month, they'll count.

Spring Sampler

-- In Yahoo Sport's Big League Stew blog, Nyjer Morgan - who now goes by the nom d' guerre T-Plush - gets some puck love, and blasphemously picks the Cap's Alex Ovechkin as the NHL's alpha dog over Sid the Kid. It also has a vid of Nyjo's hockey days.

In other Nyjer news, the Nats are trying to get him to slide feet-first after he broke his wrist last season, according to Ed Chigliak of Federal Baseball.

-- Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has a piece on John Grabow and his veteran status in a bullpen full of puppies in Wrigley.

-- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic talked to Adam LaRoche about the big deal he rejected from the Giants; LaRoche claimed it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

-- Luke Adams of MLB Trade Rumors has an item on Pirate and Duquesne grad Joe Biemel's waiting game as a free agent.

-- Once upon a time, long, long ago Pirate Tim Wakefield is sharing his knuckleball secrets with Eri Yoshida, an 18-year-old who became the first female drafted by a Japanese professional team, according to USA Today. A knuckleball throwing teen age girl? And you thought the Nippon League was tradition-bound?

-- Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball moonlighted a bit for Baseball America, and did a piece on the competitive balance of baseball. From the article:

"Complicating the argument is that most fans have only a rudimentary understanding of how revenue-sharing even works, and they don't see that baseball does have a salary cap, of sorts. While management and union leaders debate the fine points of both revenue sharing and the luxury tax, fans have a more basic question: Do they promote competitive balance?

The answer seems to be yes, and no. You need to spend to go to the postseason with regularity, but if the true barometer for baseball is winning the World Series, then being hot at the right time can get you to the promised land, regardless of where your payroll sits."

-- Twelve Angry Mascots doctor a Sarah McLachlan vid pushing animal adoption into a plea to pick up a free agent ("for only $18 a month"):

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bring On the Manatees!

-- The Pirates first lineup of the year, facing off against the State College of Florida at Manatee-Sarasota nine:

Hernandez, Gorkys (CF) 0-4, 2K
Raynor, John (LF) 0-3, R, K
Van Every, Jonathan (LF) 0-1, K
Tabata, Jose (RF) 1-4, 2B, K
Alvarez, Pedro (3B) 3-4, R, RBI, 2B
Pearce, Steve (1B) 1-4, R, 2RBI, HR, K
Moss, Brandon (DH) 2-2, 2R, RBI, 2B, HR
Walker, Neil (DH) 0-1, K
Kratz, Eric (C) 2-2, R, 2RBI, HR
Carlin, Luke (C) 0-0, W
Diaz, Argentis (SS) 0-2, K
Friday, Brian (SS) 0-1, K
Bernier, Doug (2B) 0-2, W

The Pirates thumped the Sea Cows 6-1, led by bombs hit by Brandon Moss, Eric Kratz, and Steve Pearce, blasted consecutively in the fourth frame. But they went a very Buc-like 1-for-9 with RSIP. Hey, already mid-season form!

The pitchers gave up eight hits, one run (a Jeff Sues homer), four walks, and eleven Ks. Byran Morris, who struck out the first two batters he faced in the first, got the win.

BTW, the Manatees whupped the Bucs 6-4 last spring.

-- How much do the Bucs think of Chase Headley, the Padre third-sacker? Well, enough that they offered Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady for him a couple of seasons ago, according to's Corey Brock.

-- The Pirates have their entire 40-man roster under contract today; they renewed all the players with zero-three years of service. They are Ramon Aguero, Jose Ascanio, Jeff Clement, Argenis Diaz, Joel Hanrahan, Kevin Hart, Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Jakubauskas, Jason Jaramillo, Brandon Jones, Garrett Jones, Andy LaRoche, Brad Lincoln, Andrew McCutchen, Daniel McCutchen, Evan Meek, Lastings Milledge, Bryan Morris, Charlie Morton, Brandon Moss, Ross Ohlendorf, Steve Pearce, John Raynor, Jose Tabata, Ronald Uviedo, Donnie Veal, Neil Walker, and Delwyn Young. That's a young team.

-- A couple of old Bucco farmhands have found new organizations: the Yankees signed RHP John Van Benschoten, the eighth overall pick of the Pirates in 2001. He was mauled as a White Sox AAA arm last year, going 2-8 with a 6.35 ERA for Charlotte. JVB, soon to be 30, was the #24 prospect in all of baseball in 2003.

1B Brad Eldred inked a deal with the Rockies; the 29 year-old was in the Nat system last year.

-- Wednesday's Yankee clash will be aired on 104.7 FM, WPGB. It will also be televised on MLB Network and on MLB.TV.

-- Charlie Morton is keeping a camp blog at Pirates Report; it gives the dish on how the players interact during training.

-- MLB Network's look at the Pirates in its spring training series "30 Clubs in 30 Days" will be available March 8 from Comcast On Demand.

-- Interesting article in Fox Sports by Tracy Ringolsby about how the Rockies approach their contracts.

For example, they signed Brad Hawpe to a team-friendly deal, and despite rumors of him being shopped, they held on to him because..."to trade Hawpe would send a strong message. It would have told players that the franchise wanted the players to make concessions to be a part of the big picture in Colorado, but as soon as it was convenient for management, the player could be dealt even if he did go out of his way to fit into the overall scheme."

Unlike a certain management team we all know, hey?

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Quiet Spring

Hey, never let it be said that Bucco fans have completely given up hope...

Tomorrow, the squad starts its exhibition season against their traditional rivals, the State College of Florida @ Manatee-Sarasota. If the game isn't rained out, the Bucco hurlers will be: Bryan Morris, Donnie Veal, Ronald Uviedo, Justin Thomas, Ramon Aguero, Jeff Sues and Anthony Claggett, each slated for an inning of work.

The starters for the rest of the week: Wednesday @ Yankees: Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Brian Bass, D.J. Carrasco, Chris Jakubauskas, Steven Jackson, Jack Taschner, and Jean Machi, each getting an inning.

Thursday @ Braves: Charlie Morton, Brian Burres (two innings or 45 pitches), and Brad Lincoln (one inning); Friday @ Orioles: Zach Duke and Daniel McCutchen (two innings or 45 pitches), and Virgil Vasquez (one inning); and on Saturday, the home opener vs. the Phillies: Kevin Hart and D.J. Carrasco (two innings or 45 pitches for Morton, 40 for Carrasco).

The Yankee game is on the MLB Network, and starts at 1:05 PM.